House conservatives offered their plan Thursday for repealing President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and replacing it with tax breaks and other changes. But they’re divided over whether to replace that law’s subsidies for lower-earning people should the Supreme Court annul them this month, underscoring potential problems ahead for the GOP.
The Republican Study Committee, which represents about 170 conservative GOP House members, would void Obama’s 2010 law and create new tax deductions, let small businesses create pools for buying coverage, make it harder to sue doctors and create a $15 billion fund for federal medical research.
The bill makes no mention of health care subsidies that millions of Americans get under Obama’s law.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a case brought by conservatives asserting that subsidies the administration is paying to millions of people in more than 30 states are illegal. They say the law limited the aid to people in states that create their own insurance marketplaces, not those that use the federal government’s HealthCare.gov website.
GOP congressional leaders have been working behind the scenes to craft legislation that would temporarily replace those subsidies should the court strike them down, while curbing some of the statute’s coverage requirements. They have yet to find unity behind such a plan, which they say they will unveil after the court issues its decision.
Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, who heads the conservative group, said its members were divided over what to do.
“Some of us think that, look, we didn’t create this mess,” said Flores, noting that the bill was enacted by Obama and congressional Democrats. “Some of us think that, look, you’ve got a bunch of people that were doing what the law said to do. And now they’re in a position to potentially be economically hurt by that.”
Flores’ comments illustrate the problems GOP leaders might have in rounding up enough votes for a bill replacing the subsidies. Many Republicans believe that failure to pass such legislation would provoke a voter backlash against the GOP-led Congress.
According to data released this week by the Health and Human Services Department, nearly 6.4 million people could lose subsidies worth more than $1.7 billion a month in the 34 states expected to be most directly affected should the plaintiffs in the case prevail.
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